Back in History: Locals chosen to run town

The interim committee that was appointed to run the Lami Town Council. Picture: FILE

On March 1, 1977, The Fiji Times published stories on how old residents of Lami took up administrative responsibility of Lami after it was proclaimed a town.

The interim committee included Fintan MacManus, Jerry Tikaram, William Mar, Paula Naveata, Salim Akbar and Vereniki Vatucawaqa.

The report added that the committee were all appointed by the then Minister for Urban Development, Housing and Social Welfare, Mohammed Ramzan.

Mr MacManus, who headed this committee, was a partner in the MacManus Bradley and Associates, a civil engineering and building consultants firm and he had lived in Lami for many years.

The committee’s secretary was Mr Tikaram, who was 47 years old and his parents owned a bus service at that time.

Mr Tikaram was a chief commissioner for scouts in Fiji and was working as the sales manager for Pan Air Ltd.

Mr Mar had lived in Lami since 1962 and had worked for the Suva City Council for 20 years.

He had served as a market master for 10 years and for two previous years he worked with the National Marketing Authority as assistant manager crops.

Mr Naveata, another committee member, had lived in Lami since 1958.

He used to work at the Native Land Trust Board (now known as iTaukei Land Trust Board) where he began as a junior clerk and in 1977 was a conveyancing officer.

Mr Akbar lived in Lami for 13 years and started his career as a building contractor, but owned his own company, Akbar Enterprises.

At that time he was also a member of the Rural Development Authority and chairman of the Market Vendors Association.

The last of the interim committee, Mr Vatucawaqa, lived with his family in Lami for 19 years and was an architectural draughtsman with the Suva City Council, where he was later promoted to the post of building inspector.

Lami honoured its oldest citizen when it was declared a town by giving a special gift to Hardeo (That’s his name.

The report said that no one knew Hardeo’s full name but all they knew was that he was 105 years old).

Hardeo lived somewhere past the Suva cemetery with his family, and the article added that his family too was a mystery.

He first came to Fiji in 1906 from India and worked for the Lami lighthouse for 40 years.

In 1957 he returned to live in Lami.

At his age, Hardeo walked several miles from his home to the main Queens Rd, and to the city.

Apart from deafness caused by old age he was in perfect good health.

He said he had four sons and two daughters.

His gift included a walking stick, an umbrella from the interim committee and a cheque from the Lami Shopping Centre.

Meanwhile, the article said Lami boasted some Polynesian cultural contribution as the town had a Polynesian Craft Shop which was popular for the manufacture of skilled handicraft and woodcarving.

The centre was situated across the road from Lami Police Post and its back doors opened out on to the sandy beach overlooking Suva Harbour.

The Polynesian Craft Shop’s products were indicative of the commercial possibilities, export potential and fine craftsmanship available through usage of the many expert woodworking talents so readily available in Fiji.

Coupled with a more than adequate supply of superb timbers ideally suited for carving and turning and which were among the world’s best for character, colouring and grain.

The Polynesian Craft Co Ltd, which was founded in 1971 as a retail Pacific Island handicraft store, entered the manufacturing industry at the beginning of 1975 with the purchase of a complete woodworking plant from an operator in Honolulu who was forced out of business because of the depletion of Hawaii’s raw material supply.

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